By Caroline Franks
“Six months after retiring I started volunteering with The Salvation Army as a way to give thanks and to give back for the services I have received,” said Pam Antoine.
Pam who is now 69, enjoys volunteering at The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre in Ottawa. Every Friday, she volunteers with the Food Share program. When she isn’t there volunteering, she is assisting the front desk or volunteering her time at their Christmas Boutique during the holiday season.
“I really enjoy organizing the Christmas boutique because I get to interact with the young families,” said Pam. “I also encourage others to donate to the boutique.”
The Christmas Boutique gives families at The Bethany Hope Centre the chance to choose some second hand Christmas decorations to take home.
“What a joy it is to have Pam as a volunteer at our centre. Volunteers are a big part of what we do and Pam brings her own personal style and flair to our daily operation,” said Naomi Praamsma, Executive Director at The Bethany Hope Centre. “She is so calm, gentle and caring in her interactions with everyone. We are so grateful for her dedication.”
Help and Hope
Pam was born in Trinidad and raised by a single mother who worked in a clothing factory. When Pam was 11-years-old, her mother moved to England to study nursing to better support the family. During that time, Pam and her two younger siblings were left in the care of a neighbour in Trinidad.
Unfortunately, Pam and her siblings experienced verbal and physical abuse and after 5 years they had to find suitable housing.
After many difficult housing situations, Pam packed all her belongings and headed to school.
The Defining Moment
That same day, Pam turned to her teacher for advice and it was suggested that she look into The Salvation Army’s Josephine Shaw House, a women’s hostel in Port of Spain located near her school.
Pam calls this a defining moment.
“I had never heard of the hostel before but just the thought of this possibility gave me hope,” writes Pam in her self-published book.
Pam recollects a fond memory of a Salvation Army Officer named Major Ruth Lane who accepted her into Josephine Shaw House despite being younger than the minimum age of residency.
“Josephine House was very nurturing; it gave me stability and a place to call home,” said Pam. “Major Lane even helped me find a babysitting job on the weekends. There were rules to follow at the house such as a curfew, but this was the way they provided security and it showed someone cared.”
When Pam finished high school she applied to nursing school in England. “Major Lane helped me apply to the school and guided me through the process,” said Pam.
Pam came to Canada in 1979 and worked as a nurse both in Toronto and Alberta where she completed a Bachelor’s degree while raising three children. She later moved back east, this time to Ottawa where she worked for the next 27 years with the Community Care Access Centre until she retired.
“To me, The Salvation Army means reassurance,” said Pam. “They are good people, a supportive organization, quietly meeting needs.”